For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Eph. 2:8-9 (NKJV)
It was a bit ironic that after I had drafted this post, I learned that Dr. Kent Hill, a Nazarene who among other positions was formerly President of Eastern Nazarene College, has joined the Roman Catholic church. That would be the Roman Catholic false religion. Dr. Hill gave thanks for his Wesleyan heritage, yet I fail to see what would cause him to abandon a denomination that believes in “saved by faith alone”, to become part of a religion that believes in works and baptism as the means of salvation. And yet, I have in the past received notes from at least two other former Nazarenes who became Roman Catholic. Dr. Hill was also a signatory to the Evangelicals And Catholics Together document (ECT). Here is just one statement found within that document which shows a stark difference as to why two opposing beliefs cannot be right at the same time:
“For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ. That baptismal grace is to be continuingly reawakened and revivified through conversion.
For most Evangelicals, but not all, the experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of new birth. For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church, however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again.”
The Church of the Nazarene, of which I have been a lifelong member, may as well merge with the Roman Catholic church. Certainly the evidence is nowhere in the church manual, but in practice, it is clear that the Church of the Nazarene is incorporating Roman Catholicism, and it would be foolish to deny this reality if you have seen the evidence. Complicit in this “denominational makeover” are leaders from the very top, to District Superintendents and pastors alike, as well as university chaplains and other leaders. Soon, the Nazarene church many of us have grown up in will not look the same. In fact, many have already reached that state of mind, and have embraced Romanism and its ideology as being acceptable and equal.
The New Catholic Catechism states: “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation” (1129). This is a heretical teaching that has no basis in Scripture, and is totally contradictory to what the Church of the Nazarene states, that we are saved by faith; not through works (1). In spite of this and many other egregious heresies that show that the Roman Catholic Church is a false “church” that preaches a false gospel, (grace plus works, faith plus sacraments), some of the leadership in the church seems to have no problem identifying Roman Catholics as our brothers and sisters in Christ. But are they really?
The sacraments and rituals being done in the Nazarene denomination have now gone beyond Scriptural authority. With Ashes to Fire being promoted for three years now, church leaders have been quite successful in convincing many Nazarenes that ritualism and liturgical practices are necessary for the spiritual growth of its people. When Lent was invented by the Roman Catholic church in the 4th century, it was for the purpose of fasting, moderation and self-denial. It was, and is seen as a way to remind Christians of the value of repentance, and that giving up something for Lent is a way to earn God’s blessings. Yet, we know that we can never earn God’s grace; it is a gift from God; it is the gift of righteousness, as expressed in Romans 5:17. Furthermore, why do we need Lent to remind us of the value of repentance?
Fasting is one of the biggest parts of Lent. And many Nazarenes not only are expressing publicly that they they are fasting during Lent, or giving up “something”, but many churches are going further and placing ashes to the forehead so that others will see what you are doing. But does not Jesus Himself tell us in Matthew 6:16-18: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen.”
How does putting ashes to the forehead “jive” with this clear command by Jesus that we should not be parading around our piety to others? Jesus is clearly telling me that my personal fasting is no one’s business but between me and the Lord. And do the Lenten practices comport with Scripture? There is nothing in Scripture that promotes this or tells us we should do rituals such as this. This is a works based practice right out of the false Roman Catholic culture, and now many Nazarenes are embracing it.
Is there more evidence, you might ask? Yes, every month that goes by there is more evidence. Just recently, the Nazarenes news site posted an article about an interconfessional conference in Italy, where Nazarenes, Baptists and Catholics met. Interconfessional means a gathering of groups that have differing confessions of belief systems, of which it is clear that we are totally different from Roman Catholics, albeit certainly not perfect in our theology. Yet, at least we do not believe that works are needed to save us, as the RCC does. Or do we? There are dozens of beliefs held by the RCC that upon Scriptural analysis are rank heresies, not just small differences in theology. But the Nazarene denomination has certainly changed in the last several years, perhaps it has been slowly happening for much longer, and only now is sticking out like a sore thumb.
Have you noticed the terminology changing also? Communion is often replaced with Eucharist; child baptism is now emphasized by some pastors to the point where some believe that it saves you, just like the Roman Catholics believe. Prayer stations are our version of Stations of the Cross in Romanism. Prayer labyrinths are sprouting up at universities and Nazarene churches. Prayer beads are being promoted to our youth. Retreats are now being held at monasteries, including participation in their mystical rituals. Interspiritual pilgrimages are planned at places such as Taizé in France. Roman Catholic monks such as Thomas Merton, and “saints” such as Theresa of Avila and Mother Teresa are quoted and promoted from the pulpit! This is the Nazarene church? This is reflective of holiness?
It’s embarrassing to call myself a Nazarene right now, when so many of us can testify to having been freed from the bondage of Roman Catholicism and its curse of works-based salvation. My father was one of those, who after becoming a Christian, preached to the very people whose misguided ideology we are embracing now! Yet we have Nazarene leaders silent on these issues, while they call Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters in Christ. How can that be, when their religion is based on doctrines of demons?
This continuing corruption of the “church” will go on until it completely falls apart and will only be a church by name. In the meantime, a small remnant that is faithful will separate one way or the other from the apostates running these sideshows that deviate from the true Gospel.
Like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowing heating water, we just did not realize what was happening, and now it is probably too late to save the denomination. But we can pull some people out of the fire, one at a time.
(1) IX. 12: We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness. (Articles of Faith, Church of the Nazarene)
Resources: Mike Gendron: Catholic Christians: Is This An Oxymoron?